Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis warned Florida residents in the immediate path of Hurricane Ian that it was too late to flee as the storm began to make landfall along the Gulf Coast.
DeSantis shared the concerns during an update on Wednesday morning.
“It’s no longer possible to safely evacuate,” DeSantis told Floridians around Charlotte County, with the eye of the hurricane approaching Sanibel Island near Fort Myers early Wednesday. DeSantis noted that it was too late to evacuate Collier, Lee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties.
“It’s time to hunker down and prepare for this storm,” he added. “Do what you need to do to stay safe. If you are where that storm is approaching, you’re already in hazardous conditions. It’s going to get a lot worse very quickly. So please hunker down.”
With winds reaching 155 miles per hour, Ian was upgraded to a Category 4 storm and nearly reached the level of a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane.
As #HurricaneIan moves across the state, with more than 155 mph winds, this is as strong as a large tornado. Expect strong winds, heavy rains and flooding.
Listen to your local officials and follow @FLSERT for updates. pic.twitter.com/q4OP9pm3sW
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) September 28, 2022
More than 2.5 million people are under evacuation orders across the state. DeSantis activated 5,000 Florida National Guard members in his state, with another 2,000 from other states on standby.
DeSantis has declared a state of emergency in all 67 Florida counties in preparation for Ian on Saturday. President Joe Biden also approved an emergency declaration for Florida over the weekend in advance of the growing hurricane threat.
Tuesday night, two related tornadoes were also confirmed in Broward County. The first tornado struck just before 7:30 p.m. south of Cooper City. The tornado warning included nearby Davie, Plantation, and Lauderdale Lakes. An hour later, a second tornado was confirmed in the same area, with the warning including the Pembroke Pines and West Hollywood areas.
The tornado west of Delray Beach left two people hospitalized and 35 people displaced, according to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Capt. Tom Reyes.
Tampa Bay area residents also shared shocking pictures on Wednesday morning of empty coastline as tidewater recedes during Hurricane Ian. The images show long areas of mudflats as the hurricane neared the area.
New pictures from friends in Tampa #FL as Hurricane #Ian has sucked the water out of Tampa Bay! @ScrippsNational @abcactionnews pic.twitter.com/Td1ni6oZ5M
— Ashley Glass (@ashleygTV) September 28, 2022
More than 100,000 homes in South Florida are also reportedly without electricity as hind winds have damaged power lines.
Airports in Tampa and St. Petersburg are currently closed, along with many businesses and schools across the southern portion of Florida. Tampa schools have already announced school closures until at least Friday, with other school districts likely to follow.
Numerous emergency shelters have been set up across the region. However, officials fear many residents could face dangers after refusing to evacuate.
Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp issued an emergency declaration regarding the potential impact on its state, placing 500 National Guard troops on standby alert. South Carolina is also warning residents of possible damage from Hurricane Ian.